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Showing posts from September, 2016

Observations from Penny Dreadful Cthulhu Character Generation

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As a reminder, Penny Dreadful Cthulhu = Pulp Cthulhu By Gaslight. Given that the Penny Dreadfuls were the forerunners to the later Pulps, it's not a particularly large leap.

This week we kicked off character generation. Here's who we have so far:

A noble whose older brother has the seat in the House of Lords and whose parents were killed about ten years ago by criminals. The noble's valet. He served the noble's father. Dad was a diplomat and the valet was actually a spy in the Great Game. Valet now secretly seeks vengeance on the criminal element for killing his friend.A muckraking journalist who has made a bit of a name for himself covering the valet's vigilante activities. This weekend we'll be making the final character, an Irish-American Catholic priest who after an unpleasant encounter in the United States (where he ran into the noble on an American tour), is traveling to London in search of answers. Though the player in question is unfamiliar with 'Sa…

The Wider World of 1889

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One thing I'd like to do in my Penny Dreadful Cthulhu game (i.e. Pulp Cthulhu by Gaslight) is be a bit more cosmopolitan than my previous exploration of the era. That doesn't necessarily mean even leaving London (though I plan on having the characters do so). I keep thinking of a scene in From Hell when early on in the investigation Inspector Abberline investigates the possibility that the murder (only one at this point) was done by one of Buffalo Bill's "red Indians". As it turns out Bill is off in Paris at the time, with "Mexico Joe" doing a variant show. I just like the reminder of how the Old West (rapidly falling into history at this point) was viewed by the rest of the world.

So what's going on in the world of 1889? Some of these events might be for adventure ideas, others just happen to be out there in the background - not everything is the fault of Nyaralthotep - or is it? Wikipedia tells me some things I might want in my game...

The Ghost D…

Understanding Bell Curves at Age 11 - Math from D&D

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I'd planned on writing some more about Call of Cthulhu this evening but a combination of family and homework have occupied my evening and necessitate a bit of a brief post tonight.
And it's homework that got me thinking about statistics and RPGs. Currently I'm taking a Statistics class as part of my Strategic Analytics Master's program at Brandeis University. I'm diving deep into data science. My current statistics course is less focused with performing various statistical operations (though that is part of it) but rather with how best to present them. 
The diagram I show above is a simple comparison of a bell curve and a linear distribution from the 1st edition of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. I seem to recall picking it up in 5th grade or maybe the summer before 6th grade. And the curve was a bit of a mystery to me. It seems obvious now, but a probability curve was some heavy math for an 11-year old. After some heavy duty analysis (for an 11-year old) as w…

I Might Need to Work on My Cockney Accent: Penny Dreadful Cthulhu

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We're still finalizing plans and I'm giving my players a bit longer to weigh in, but in a recent email to my group I offered the possibility that a Pulp Cthulhu game could be slightly repurposed to take place a few decades earlier, in Victorian London of the late 1880s and the 1890s.

What would that mean for a campaign? To begin, the name would change a bit, from Pulp Cthulhu to Penny Dreadful Cthulhu. This isn't in reference to the recently ended Showtime series (which I'll need to view after finishing Ripper Street) but rather from the same source it got its name from - the cheap one penny serialized stories that tended towards sensational topics.

One nice aspect about the period is it clears away the impending event of World War II. World War I is about 25 years away from a start date of 1889. The Victorian Age itself comes to an end in the early 20th century but the Edwardian Age would absolutely be workable as well, with many of the same resources applicable. For…

Researching for a Pulp Cthulhu Game

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After a lot of discussion (sometimes with other people and not just me talking to myself) it looks like our next game will be a Pulp Cthulhu game, set in the early 1930's - far enough in that the effects of the Great Depression are being felt but not so far as to make World War II be right around the corner.

I've limited experience with pulp gaming in the 1930's - my group did a few one-shots using the Thrilling Adventures minigame from Dungeon/Polyhedron magazine in the early 2000's. My recollection is it was a lot of fun, with some larger than life battles with evil Nazis.

I think part of the reason I've shied away from the 1930's is that giant border that is September 1, 1939, marking the outbreak of World War II (though those living in China might prefer a much earlier date). One could perhaps stretch the era to December of 1941, as the USA was supposedly a neutral power up until that point, but for all intents and purposes it was an ally of the UK.

Does p…

Ghostbusters Actual Play: Ghost Toasties Part I

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Based on the West End Games Adventure by Scott Haring et al.
Cast of Characters: Ethan Sharp, smooth-talking wheel-manMike Slade, brawny brainiac Wednesday, September 11, 1985. Brooklyn, New York. 7 AM.
The Brooklyn Ghostbusters had just moved into their headquarters in Kings Plaza mall. They had had quite the moving celebration, with the extended staff joining them - though come to think of it, they weren't there for the heavy lifting...  Slade and Sharp had retired to their bunk room after a healthy diet of takeout Chinese food and questionable recreational beverage. True by a strict reading of the law their lease might look unkindly on their sleeping in the mall. But once you have unlicensed particle accelerators as part of your kit a little lease violation was a small thing.
Slade woke first and noticing the phone off the hook he replaced it and immediately received a call from Fred Lunt of the Yum-Mee Food Palace on Ocean Avenue - it turned out they had a bit of a ghost proble…

Seeing the 1980's in Stranger Things

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The Netflix show Stranger Things takes place in autumn of 1983. The main protagonists are around twelve years old. As I watched it, the odd realization dawned on me that in autumn of 1983, I was twelve years old.

I watched many of the episodes with my 14-year old daughter. I amused her when I had an epiphany that I actually owned one of the shirts that Mike wore. It was one of the most accurate depictions of the 1980's I've seen on television. There were some anachronisms here and there, but it was for the most part spot-on. Mike and his friends were a lot like me and my friends - not social outcasts but definitely not the cool kids. We played Dungeons & Dragons - and like Mike and company, mixed Advanced Dungeons & Dragons concepts (like Demogorgon) in our D&D games. Though I held out upgrading my 1981 version of the D&D Expert Set for several more years. As a short cut we'd often travel through wooded areas behind houses. I lived in an incredibly hilly a…

From a Camera on the Map to the Virtual Tabletop

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I submitted my first GitHub pull request for Roll20 this evening - an update to the Ghostbusters character sheet to support ghost characters (making this Ghostmaster's life easier). As I did so I reflected on how much remote tabletop RPGs have changed over the years.
The first time I ever had to do remote gaming was after a player moved away but wanted to stay in the group. We wound up using a webcam that either pointed at us or at the physical tabletop and generally trusted him on his rolling. We tried a variety of early virtual tabletop tools but we found they suffered from problems like doing too little (why not just use Skype?), were too complicated (performing surgery on my router settings is not a fun activity), and too specialized for a given game or set of games.
As my gaming group grew more dispersed the ability to use a virtual tabletop became more important. We had a lot of early success with Fantasy Grounds and I'd certainly have no objection to using it again for…

First Thoughts on Pulp Cthulhu

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Pulp Chtulhu was originally announced for "summer 2002" and was to have supported both d20 and BRP Call of Cthulhu, this supplement for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition is at last available, at least in electronic form. With a Mythos game appearing as a likelihood this autumn, I've been flipping through its electronic pages. I'm not yet ready to give it a full review, but I've had enough time to get some basic impressions.
As a supplement, Pulp Cthulhu provides a number of dials to decide just how pulpy one wants his or her game to be. Off the top of my head, the big differences seem to be: Starting characters are far tougher, with more skills and better ability scoresPC and major NPC hit points are doubled (in pre-7e terms, hit points are the sum of Strength and Size, in 7e (Str+Siz)/5).Characters have access to talents - typically giving a character a bonus die under certain circumstances (for those new to 7th edition, this means when making a percentile roll, you ro…

Exploding Batteries or a Secret Copy of the Necronomicon?

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Sure Samsung claims the batteries are overheating and causing their phones to melt... But isn't it just as likely that some cultist burned a copy of the Necronomicon into all Galaxy Note 7 phones?

I've been getting my brain back into a Cthulhu state of mind (I guess one can do that by failing a SAN check). One of our possible games is a 21st century Delta Green game, dealing with a top secret organization dedicated to fighting the Cthulhu Mythos. One interesting exercise when dealing with a modern take on the Mythos is finding a conspiracy explanation for news stories. As I received a Galaxy Note 7 upgrade as a birthday gift, the fact that the batteries can potentially go boom got my attention...

Putting on my Delta Green conspiracy hat (lined with foil) I thought of an alternate take. What if some cultist infiltrated the phone assembly factories and burned a copy of some secret tome into it - or, borrowing a page from Charles Stross' Atrocity Archives, a computer program…